Monday, May 27, 2019

Natasha Ramoutar: my (small press) writing day

It is a luxury to sit at a desk in a quiet room with nothing but your thoughts and a notebook to write. I can’t think of a time when I’ve had that luxury.

That’s not a complaint, just a fact that defines my writing practice. Much like Manahil Bandukwala, a fellow emerging poet who I greatly admire, I write in the interim, in transit, during the spaces in between.

All of my ideas get placed into the Notes app on my phone as I go throughout my day. Sometimes it’s words or phrases that I find myself drawn to - “enclave, excavation, relic, arcane.” Sometimes it’s strange ideas - “what if there was a shark in the water tower?” Sometimes it’s mundane snippets of conversation - “the 116 is the best bus.”

During the week, I do most of my writing and editing on the train while commuting to and from my 9-5 job. My in-progress work all exist on my Google Drive. I take one of the bits and pieces I’ve jotted down in my digital notes, add it to a new document in the Drive, and layer on top of it until it starts to bloom into a full piece. A one-way trip on the Go train is about 30 minutes.

I am fortunate that I have always been drawn to flash fiction and other short forms, even when I was a student and had more time to write. I’m fascinated with the way these forms immediately immerse you in a story and extensively unpack something as small as a single moment. Even my longer pieces are amalgamations of multiple smaller scenes.

If an idea really grips me, I might stay up until the early hours of the morning and finish a poem or short story or essay in one go. The next day, I am insufferable and grumpy. By the following day, I am overjoyed and ready to edit.

On weekends, I head out to a cafe or library. These days aren’t usually used for writing. Instead, they’re used for the more administrative parts of the writing life: sending out work to literary magazines, applying to grants, and researching residencies.

When I applied for a writer-in-residence program recently, they asked how writing fits into my life. My reply sums up my writing day well:

These days, I squeeze writing into lunch hours, after work, and on weekends. I write on the train. I scribble lines down on napkins in coffee shops. I wake from half-formed dreams and type the remnants into my phone, eyes squinted at the bright light in the darkness.

Perhaps one day I’ll have a picturesque desk, a nice notebook, silence and an abundance of time to write. For now, I’m truly happy to grasp the ephemeral, transitory moments as they come.

Natasha Ramoutar is an Indo-Guyanese writer by way of Scarborough (Ganatsekwyagon) at the east side of Toronto. She has been published in The Unpublished City II, PRISM Magazine, Room Magazine, Living Hyphen, and more. Her first poetry collection Bittersweet will be published in 2020 by Mawenzi House. 

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